Missouri Democrats Filibuster All Night Against Anti-LGBT Legislation

Democratic state Senators in the Missouri legislature have been up all night in an effort to filibuster SJR39 – legislation that would possible legalize LGBT discrimination in the “Show Me State.”

Many have pointed out the legislation is unnecessary because LGBTs are not protected in the state’s human rights laws. So, it’s already perfectly legal to discriminate against LGBTs in terms of housing, employment, or even wedding cakes.

From the Human Rights Campaign:

Today, HRC praised Missouri Senate Democrats for leading a historic filibuster – now in its 17th hour – to stop Republicans from moving forward with Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 39 – a measure that could enshrine discrimination against LGBT Missourians and their families into the state constitution.

Still going strong since 4:00 PM CT yesterday, these pro-equality state senators have been vigorously fighting an assault on equality that’s similar to so-called “First Amendment Defense Act” legislation introduced in other states. The extreme resolution would lead to a ballot measure that proposes to allow individuals, organizations, and businesses to use religion as a valid excuse to discriminate against LGBT people.

“These Missouri Senate Democrats working throughout the night to stop this outrageous assault on LGBT Missourians and their families are our heroes,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs. “This resolution has nothing to do with religious liberty and everything to do with enshrining anti-LGBT discrimination into the Missouri Constitution. We are incredibly grateful for these state senators who are standing up against overwhelming odds to proclaim that hate and discrimination are not Missouri values.”

The filibuster against the anti-LGBT resolution is being led by Democratic Senators Jamilah Nasheed, Jill Schupp, Scott Sifton, Jason Holsman, Maria Chappelle-Nadal, Joseph Keaveny and Kiki Curls.

SJR 39 goes far beyond protecting the right of free exercise of one’s religion. While shrouded in language framed as prohibiting the state government from making funding or tax status decisions based on an organization’s views on marriage that are driven by religious belief, in reality it opens the door to discrimination against same-sex couples, their families, and those who love them.

If voted into law, LGBT people and their families could suddenly find themselves at risk of being denied many basic services. Taxpayer funded foster care providers and adoption agencies could refuse to place children in need of loving homes with same-sex couples. Taxpayer funded homeless shelters could turn away LGBT couples and their families. The legislation would have reckless intended and unintended consequences.

The resolution addresses no real problem in the state as no federal or state law requires religious organizations or clergy to sanction or perform same-sex marriages.

UPDATE: As the filibuster has now passed the 24 hour mark, the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson follows up with a few more details on the bill.

The law has four parts aimed at allowing religious people and organization to deny wedding services to same-sex couples:

* It prohibits the state from imposing a penalty on a religious organization who acts in accordance with a sincere religious belief concerning same-sex marriage, which includes the refusal to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony or allowing a same sex wedding ceremony to be performed on the religious organization’s property. (A religious organization under the resolution is construed broadly to include religious societies, corporations, schools, social service providers and hospitals.)
* It bars the state from penalizing an individual who declines, due to sincere religious beliefs, to provide goods of expressional or artistic creation for a same-sex wedding ceremony.
* It explicitly doesn’t prevent the state from providing lawful marriage licenses or other marital benefits. Under the resolution, hospitals couldn’t refuse to treat a marriage as valid for the purposes of a spouse’s right to visitation or to make health care decisions.
* It allows individuals protected under this resolution to use the law as a claim or defense in a legal proceeding regardless of whether the state is a party in the dispute.

Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri has also weighed in on the issue:

Oregon’s Anti-Gay Bakers Finally Pay Fine For Discriminating Against Same-Sex Couple

The anti-gay owners of the Oregon bakery, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, have finally paid the $136,927 fine levied against the business for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding.

Aaron and Melissa Klein, the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, refused to bake a cake for Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, saying it would infringe on their religious beliefs.

In July, Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian ordered the Kleins pay $135,000 for emotional damages suffered by the couple.

“This case is not about a wedding cake or a marriage. It is about a business’s refusal to serve someone because of their sexual orientation. Under Oregon law, that is illegal,” the bureau’s final order states.

After several months of refusing to pay the damages, Aaron Klein delivered the check (with accrued interest) to the State of Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries offices in Portland on Monday.

While the far right-wing zealots tried to make the case about same-sex marriage, the business was actually fined for discriminating due to sexual orientation, which has been illegal in the state for years.

It’s also worth noting that a Christian crowd-funding campaign raised over $500K for the couple, so the issue actually became a money-making episode.

The state will hold onto the funds until the full appeals process is exhausted.

(h/t JMG)

High School Senior Barred From Bringing Male Date To Homecoming Suspended For Unwanted Publicity

Last week, I reported on the news that Lance Sanderson, a student at Christian Brothers High School, was forbidden from bringing a male date to this year’s Homecoming Dance.

Today, he was sent home for the rest of the week for bringing unwanted attention to the school’s bigotry.

“I am disappointed that I am unable to sit in class today,” Sanderson told NewNowNext. “While many assignments can be reached online, I was going to take two tests today and an in class timed essay. Tomorrow at CBHS, I was going to meet with admissions representatives from around the country (they do not visit often). I hope to be welcomed back into a classroom setting soon.”

It should be noted that Sanderson did not violate any school policy. When told he couldn’t attend the dance with the date of his choice, he decided not to attend.

The school has made a serious misstep by suspending a student merely for speaking out for LGBT students who experience similar discrimination.

Sanderson has shared a copy of the letter he sent off to the school (which he has yet to received a response to):

Dear CBHS Administration,

Today I arrived at school around 6:30am. I sat down to complete my assignments for the classes I planned on attending today. At 7:30am, I was speaking to a teacher when an administrator walked into the room and told me to gather my books and come to the office.

When I arrived at the office I was told that the administration “had 890 other students to worry about” and could not deal with me. I was told to go home for the week. I said goodbye to a few teachers and students, then drove home.

I am hurt by this exclusion. It goes against the Lasallian value of brotherhood that the school is supposed to stand for. You won’t let me dance with my date and you won’t let me go to class now either. I had hoped that today would be one for positive conversation going forward. Instead, I was sent home.

I haven’t done anything wrong and haven’t hurt anybody. I want to be welcomed back to the school building today and I want this mean-spirited semi-suspension ended, so that I can do my classwork like anybody else.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote from a Birmingham jail cell: “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Lance Sanderson

Alabama: Employer Asks Transgender Employee “What Are You?” Then Fires Her

Imagine after a challenging period of time trying to find employment, you think you’ve found a dream job.

Not only a good job, but the company that’s hired you offers to pay to train you.

This was the case of Jessi Dye, a transgender woman living in Vinetown, Alabama.

On her first day at work at Summerford Nursing Home she arrived on time, filled out paperwork, received vaccinations (she would be training to become a certified nurse’s assistant). But come lunch time, Dye was summoned to the office of Robert Summerford, the manager for the facility.

“What are you?” he asked.

At that moment, Dye says she felt “exactly like being punched in the stomach.”

Dye explained that she was born male and transitioning to female.

From there, the situation got even worse with Summerford asking, “What am I supposed to do with you?”

And with that, Dye was fired on the spot.

Via the Huffington Post:

In March, Dye, with the support of lawyers from the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center, filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

On Thursday, the Southern Poverty Law Center announced that Summerford had reached a settlement with Dye. Rather than face a possible fight over Dye’s accusation in federal court, the company agreed to implement a policy that prohibits discrimination against job applicants and employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and to conduct sensitivity training concerning LGBT people. (The amount of money paid to Dye in the settlement has not been disclosed.)

Sam Wolfe, a lawyer with SPLC, sees Summerford’s quick capitulation and favorable settlement offer as a positive sign that the climate toward LGBT people in the workplace is shifting around the country, even in states like Alabama, which have no statewide laws prohibiting LGBT discrimination.

“I think the takeaway here is that we have a small company that is represented by competent lawyers and they saw the writing on the wall,” Wolfe told The Huffington Post. “It’s an admission that employers do need to pay attention to their obligations under federal law to not discriminate because of someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation.”

This episode is not unique, and underscores why transgender folks (and gays and lesbians) need the Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed in Congress to protect against these kinds of cases.

For her part, Dye is glad the lawsuit at least brought attention to the very real issue of transgender protections. “I don’t want anybody else to have to go through what I went through that day,” she said.

Sen. Ted Cruz Defends LGBT Discrimination Via “Religious Liberty” To Actress Ellen Page

Sen. Ted Cruz got catch in a heated exchange with out actress Ellen Page at the Iowa State Fair over “religious liberty” laws which become a license to discriminate against LGBTs.

Page began by asking the senator, who was wearing an apron and grilling pork chops, his opinion on Americans losing their jobs for “just strictly being gay or trans.”

“What we’re seeing right now, we’re seeing Bible-believing Christians being persecuted for living according to their faith,” Cruz said.

“For discriminating against LGBT people,” Page responded.

“Now I’m happy to answer your question, but not to have a back-and-forth debate,” said Cruz.

Cruz brought up Dick and Betty Odgaard, an Iowa couple who stopped renting their art gallery for weddings after a long legal battle for refusing to host a same-sex wedding. “No one has the right to force someone else to abandon their faith and their conscience,” Cruz said.

The presidential hopeful also pivoted to bring up the serious anti-gay oppression is occurring in Islamic states. “ISIS is executing gay people, Iran is executing homosexuals, and on the left you hear complete silence about Iran hanging homosexuals,” he said.

I would disagree that there has been silence on the issue of LGBTs being killed by ISIS.

In the end, this stands as what may be the most substantive discussion on LGBT rights in the presidential campaign thus far.

Boy Scouts Of America Set To End Gay Scout Leader Ban – Almost

A vote scheduled today for the 80 member board of the Boy Scouts of America could officially end the organization’s longtime ban on openly gay scout leaders.

Kinda sorta.

In an effort to assuage some conservative religious groups, the new policy allows church-led scout groups to choose adult leaders “whose beliefs are consistent with their own.”

The Boy Scouts’ executive committee unanimously voted earlier this month to approve a resolution that would effectively end the ban on gay adult leaders. Today’s vote makes that resolution official.

Discrimination Turns Into A Sweet Deal For Sweet Cakes Owners

Melissa and Aaron Klein of “Sweet Cakes by Melissa”

So it turns out, for the second time this year, if you go public with your anti-gay animus you can clean up financially with crowd-sourcing campaigns.

The owners of Oregon bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa, who refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, were found guilty of violating state public accommodation laws and fined $135,000.

But don’t worry about owners Aaron and Melissa Klein – they won’t feel the pinch even a little bit with that fine. Anti-gay haters across the country pitched in to contribute a whopping $355,500 to the Kleins via a campaign at Continue To Give.

This is after GoFundMe closed an earlier campaign that raised over $110,000 – WHICH the anti-gay bakers get to keep.

So, all in all, for discriminating against a same-sex wedding, the Kleins rake in over $462,000; more than triple the fine.


Maryland DJ Refuses To Provide Services For Gay Man’s 60th Birthday Party

(Graphic via Washington Post)

Well, this will get interesting.

First we had wedding photographers and bakeries refusing to provide services for same-sex weddings based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Same-sex marriage was a bridge too far for those folks, and they could not see themselves as “participating” in a same-sex wedding.

Now, however, a Maryland DJ has refused to work at a birthday party being thrown for a 60 year old gay man. No wedding. No unions. Just a party where gay people might be.

And Ultrasound Deejays has a written company policy stating, “we will not be involved in any event involving homosexual celebration or activity. We follow biblical morality.”

More from the Washington Post:

The national debate about how to balance religious conscience protections and gay equality flared in the large, mostly liberal Washington, D.C., suburb of Montgomery County Friday, when Dani Tsakounis tried to help her brother hire Ultrasound Deejays for a party. An owner of the business told Tsakounis he would not provide the DJ because Tsakounis’s brother, a Silver Spring therapist, is married to another man and the birthday party they are hosting is for their 60-year-old roommate, who is also gay.

“I just said, ‘We won’t be able to do it, we’re a Christian organization and it would go against our faith, I’m sorry,’” Michael Lampiris, co-owner of Ultrasound Deejays, said Friday.

Tom Tsakounis, 46, was so upset when his sister told him that he posted the news on his neighborhood listserv, prompting calls of sympathy from neighbors. He also registered a complaint with the Montgomery County Human Rights Commission, which hears cases of alleged discrimination.

Maryland state law has banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodation — which includes businesses “offering goods, services, entertainment” the law says — since 2001.

The article goes on to say that Lampiris admits that he’s turned down bridal parties just because he heard lesbians might be attending.

According to reports, Lampiris didn’t sound very concerned about breaking the law, though, stating, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

Poll: Sixty-Five Percent Of Americans Expect SCOTUS To Rule In Favor Of Marriage Equality

A new poll from Public Religion Research Institute shows 65% of Americans expect the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide.

• 65% expect the state bans currently in place (14 states) to be struck down.

• 55% of Americans support marriage equality; 37% oppose.

• 69% of Americans say they favor laws that protect LGBT folks against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing.

• 60% of Americans oppose allowing private business owners refusing to serve LGBTs.

• 65% of Americans say they have a close friend or family member who is gay or lesbian.

• 11% of Americans say they have a close friend or family member who is transgender.